Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tax Efficiency

Until this year, I have prepared and filed a paper annual Income Tax return.  I looked at the tax guide for any changes, and completed the return by hand, carefully double-checking the schedules and calculations and referring to my prior year's return.

This year Canada Revenue Agency advised that they were no longer sending out paper forms or tax guides and suggested that I complete my return using computer software and file it electronically.  A little slow to move past my comfortable habits, I realized that most filers had probably made this transition and that I was a straggler.

CRA provided a short list of approved software, and I selected Studio Tax, rather than UFile or TurboTax, because it was free (donation) and I had no idea of their relative merits.

Studio Tax turned out to be easy to use.  After a few questions regarding identification, residency, and status, it asked me to transfer information from my tax statements to their similar statements and produced a preliminary tax return with schedules, worksheets, and tax calculations completed.  I added other earnings for which I had not received statements, plus my quarterly instalments, recalculated, and my tax return was done.

Because it looked similar to my previous return and the figures seemed in line, I decided to accept that the calculations were correct (after all it was CRA approved), saved it, and then created a "Netfile" version for CRA.  Using their website, I submitted the return to CRA, checked my online account, and saw that it had been received.    

Last year, I had been a little annoyed that it took six weeks for CRA to process my return (submitted March 6, but not processed until April 16).  This year, I submitted the return on Monday, March 10, and when I checked on Friday, it was processed and I could print a summary.  CRA did not identify any errors and indicated that my refund would be deposited on the following Thursday.

Reducing the processing time from six weeks to four days was certainly an improvement, suggesting that the slow service from the previous year was possibly intentional to get filers to change over. 

On the cautionary side, the return did not require a signature, and I could have filed a return for someone else if I had their Social Insurance Number and birthdate.  There is also the downside that as they make it more convenient, I will become less knowledgeable, so I  should probably find an online tax guide to review before taking too much for granted.     

Monday, January 21, 2013

Blue Monday

I see that today is "Blue Monday", described as the most depressing day of the year.  The assumptions on which this is based are that it is probably cold, the Christmas hangover of unpaid bills has arrived, and New Year's resolutions are already broken.

In my case, however, it is just the opposite.  We have yet to have any serious snow, only two light days in December and one light day in January.  My Christmas bills are paid and the yearly contribution to my  TFSA (Tax-Free Savings Account) has been made.  My two New Year's resolutions are still well intact, the first (as usual) to lose a few pounds and the other to focus less on political and social issues from the United States.

Of my resolutions, I am ten pounds overweight according to the BMI calculator.  Given that I tend to have my highest weight in January and am ten pounds below where I was three years ago at this time (when I then lost twenty pounds), I'm fairly optimistic that I can again get back to healthy weight.  For my age, I am at the 46 percentile, meaning I am actually a little less than average in an overweight population. 

The second resolution, to reduce the amount of unpleasant political information I receive from the U. S., is also under way.  I've limited the amount of time watching CNN and am in the process of severely reducing time on Facebook.  Although I like my Facebook "friends", the attempt to engage in meaningful political or social discussion on the forums doesn't work.  I was particularly amazed a week ago when three seemingly moderate comments I made were severely attacked by others.  On both the left and the right, there is very little tolerance for the middle ground, very little effort to look at both sides of issues, and strong partisan identification.  Maybe this is just the nature of Facebook, but I've decided that aside from staying in contact with real friends and family, there isn't much to be gained from it.